Best Avant-Prog: Piniol – Bran coucou (Dur et Doux)
The merger of French bands Poil and Ni into the entity known as Piniol delivers exactly what I’m looking for in avant-prog: mathematically proficient, musically dense, and making something utterly novel. Bran coucou is to the genre what Bisbâyé is for metal. If you haven’t already, do yourself the pleasure of listening to this album. Oh, and while you’re here, take a listen at the honourable mentions below; they’re all equally fantastic!
Best Experimental Rock: Brian! – Chasms of Color & Thought (Pirate House Records)
The bassoon-driven sound of Brian! helps, but it’s not the only reason it won the best experimental rock award. Chasms of Color & Thought is a profound journey into a plethora of different realms—here atmospheric, here chaotic—all mystical and intriguing. Brian! is not afraid to experiment, and it pays off: this album is an absolute gem!
Book of Sand – Sun Going Down (Atrocious Gnosis)
No Mandate – No Mandate / Scheme of Things (Independent)
Video Men – Side B (Gamma Ray Gun Productions)
Spooky Generator – Spooky Generator (Independent)
Sister – Untrue (Underflow Records)
Best Math Rock: Doom Shrugs – The Clairolfactant and the Flatulent Ghost (Independent)
Quite possibly the oddball one here, but Doom Shrugs‘s debut full-length is challenging the norms of the genre, and that’s always a good thing. We had the pleasure of premiering a single from this album, and I still stand by it and regard that album as the strongest math release of the year. There has been plenty of good tap rock (see below), but the essence of math, in my eyes, is in the Hellas and Yowies of this world. I’m excited to hear new material from this New Zealand duo!
Countdown from Ten – Speakeasy Petting Zoo [EP] (Independent)
Space Corolla – Never Happy [EP] (Independent)
大象體操 (Tōa-Chhiūⁿ Thé-Chhau) / Elephant Gym – 水底 (Súi-tái) / Underwater (Words Recordings)
Kaguu – Wistful [EP] (Independent)
Wizard – Wizard (Independent)
Best Noise Rock: Oroboro – O, Laughing Death, and Dyad [EP] (Independent)
Between releasing two albums and an EP in 2018, and them all being fantastic, I’ve got to say Oroboro has had the best output of the year in noise rock. Even if O is made of unmastered tracks, and feels a bit unpolished because of that, all three albums are great in their own rights, with Dyad being the best one, in my opinion, despite its shorter runtime. I’m looking forward to hear more from this amazing little group!
Tongue Party – Looking for a Painful Death [EP] (Learning Curve Records)
Baguette – Expensive Mouse (Noise Appeal Records)
La Morte Young – A Quiet: Earthquake Style (Doubtful Sounds)
DÓH-Tríó – DÓH (Independent)
F! – L’âge d’or du bronze [EP] (Independent)
Best Post-Rock: Spurv – Myra (Fysisk Format)
Norway’s Spurv—Sparrow, in Norwegian—really hit the nail on the head with their album Myra—Marsh—released in late May. The full-length is a powerful and memorable experience, thanks to the sense of apocalypse brought on by the huge swells of guitar and effects, the tremolo picking, and the sparse implementation of strings. It’s a well-crafted album, and you have to experience it for yourselves to believe it.
Bruit ≤ – Monolith [EP] (Elusive Sound)
Flora – The Bottom (Independent)
!Gerald! – The Church of the Sublime Parade (Independent)
Féroces – Joséphine [EP] (Independent)
AACKR – AACKRRKCAA [EP] (Independent)
沼澤 (Zhǎozé) – 爭鳴 (Zhēngmíng) / Birds Contending (Sound-Ray)
Best Progressive Rock: Gentleman Surfer – Hard Pass (Geomancy Records)
Hard Pass passed right under my nose, when it was released in October. Fortunately, some acquaintance of mine shared the amazing album of Gentleman Surfer, and, here we are celebrating it as the best of its genre the year had to offer! The noise-rock-meets-prog is perhaps, as they themselves put it, “too prog for the punkers, too punk for the proggers”, but I am definitely not the target audience for that quip. It’s just so inventive and seemingly careless, energetic and interesting on many fronts. Plus, with the aforementioned genre crossover, I believe it’s a push in a new, or at the very least under-explored direction for progressive rock, and I want—no, I need!—more of this.
All Traps on Earth – A Drop of Light (AMS Records)
Karmic Juggernaut – The Dreams That Stuff Are Made Of (WKRM the Kream)
Them Moose Rush – Don’t Pick Your Noise (Dostava Zvuka)
Zwoyld – Zgond (Independent)
Stop Motion Orchestra – Lightworks (Knockem Dead / Megaphone Records)
Tangent – Proxy (Insideout Records)